The Loneliness Of The Long Distance Runner

I always told myself I hated running.

It was one of those things I told myself as a kid and then never really questioned for, oh about, the last 35 years or so. However, in the interests of both my own health and fitness and to have a better understanding of my client’s experiences, I’ve been doing a lot of it lately.

When I first started, my initial assessment seemed to be bang out. I hated it.

But that’s also because I sucked at it. I was slow, clumsy and my gas tank was basically non-existent.

But over time, I got better.

And now I’ve learned to love it.

There’s something meditative about it. Almost yogic in some ways. It’s the movement and the breath, but most importantly, it’s the time.

For years, my main types of exercise have been strength training and sprints.

These are brief, intense efforts where even the longest bout won’t usually go much past 45 seconds. So if you can keep on squeezing for that long, you’re good.

Running requires a different kind of grit.

You have to settle into the discomfort and then stay there.

You can’t hide from it. With every step and hard-fought breath it’s there.

The voices in your head will try and seduce you with oh so many reasons to stop.

“Slow down….nobody’s watching.”

“How about you just walk for the next block and then start running again?”

“Take an easy one today, you’ll feel better tomorow, I promise.”

And in the beginning, I listened to the voices. But the second I stopped, I felt like a fool.

Like a goddamn failure.

My inner weakness had won and that hurt a lot more than taking that extra step would have.

So I stopped listening and kept going.

Running is you vs. you. The work is always the same, step by step, for mile after mile.

And it breeds a stick-to-itness, a willingness to suffer now for a greater benefit down the line.

You do the work alone.

Nobody’s watching.

Nobody cares.

If you decide to give in to your inner weakness and stop, nobody will be there to judge you. Nobody will know…except you.

Running teaches you how to grind.

And if you keep at it, eventually, that thing you are grinding against will become smooth.

This is fitness as a metaphor for mastery.

True competence in anything requires doing the work when it isn’t fun. Doing it when nobody is watching and nobody cares.

And shutting out that inner voice that’s telling you to “stop, and do it later”

This is how you get good.

This is how you change your body

This is how you change your life.

Stay Hungry,


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